When you have multiple sclerosis, be sure to cast the right shadow

Protecting fellow patients is important, but so is being honest

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

by Benjamin Hofmeister |

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I’m not very good at this sort of thing, but depending on whether or not you count today and the 25th itself, we’ve got about four days left until Christmas. If I still needed to get my wife anything, I’d be entering shopping panic mode about now. Fortunately, I don’t have to, because she already has me and who could ask for more? I am an absolute delight.

OK, I’d better revise that some. Santa may be watching and my wife may be reading. I am only delightful some of the time. There’s a chance I might occasionally be grumpy, too — and snappy, stubborn, temperamental, and, well, you get the picture. I wish I could blame those traits completely on my multiple sclerosis (MS), but that wouldn’t be entirely honest.

If you’re not frantically shopping, decorating, or wrapping today, go outside at noon and look at your shadow. Today, Dec. 21, is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the shortest day of the year, and the sun’s low position in the sky means that you’ll cast your longest shadow of the year.

If you’re on the southern half of the Earth, it’s the opposite. Either way, your shadow will be at one extreme or the other today. Long, short, or somewhere in between, shadows are inevitable (if there’s light). The only way someone else can be affected by ours is if they’re close to us, so we have a certain amount of responsibility for the effect our shadow has on others.

What kind of shadow are you casting? What do those around you learn from your struggles with multiple sclerosis?

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A shadow can protect someone from heat and glaring light, but there’s such a thing as too much shade. For obvious reasons, when I need guidance or advice, I look more to the experience of others with MS than to anyone else. A little protection is kind, and sometimes being shaded is the only way my own glow can be seen when it’s at its weakest. Just don’t shade me so much that I get cold and am unprepared to face the bright sun.

If you’re talking to someone with multiple sclerosis, especially someone newly diagnosed, you owe it to them to protect, but be completely honest, too. If I’m the one asking, you owe it to me to tell me all the bad and how you overcame it — or didn’t. I don’t want you to pretend that you’ve never fallen. I want to know if it happened to you and how you got back up again.

Tell me about how you made the effort when a situation called for it and paid for it after. Tell me that it’s OK to be “fine” even when you’re not. Giving your all when it matters is a good shadow to cast and a good example to follow.

Honesty is the best shadow to leave. The good and the bad are the inheritance that we’re all due from one another as fellow multiple sclerosis patients. The greatest Christmas present you can give this year is the real you (even if you’re not a delight).

Happy holidays, everyone!


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Maureen Brennan avatar

Maureen Brennan

Thanks for that Ben quite a joy reading your little tidbit. I too was diagnosed with PPMS in 2014. Have fallen been in positions still wondering how I got out of. Spent hours on the floor devising ways to get up all the while my cat looking at me saying she did it again. I make all these stories a conversation piece and makes life so much better, Happy Holidays to you and your family, and hoping to hear some of your escapades. Cheers, Maureen

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Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thank you so much Maureen. My cats would sit there debating on how long they should wait before eating me. Don't worry, I'm full of escapades.

Ben

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Anna avatar

Anna

That's true, being authentic is not an easy task, indeed. I have shown the real me today when I was late for the train. I left much too late, then the traffic jam that I had not expected at that hour, and other various reasons I could think of (like being slower due to my MS) so as not to blame myself. I have swallowed this humiliation and .... bought another ticket for tomorrow. Hopefully this time I will be on time and meet my family for Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone:)

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Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Hi again Anna! It's always so good to hear your thoughts. Being authentic is never easy but so important. Sometimes the best we can do is what you did; try again tomorrow. Thank you for setting the example.

Ben

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